Sunday, June 24, 2007

Website of the Week

I must recommend a very subtle and sweet site you can subscribe to: Monday9am. This gem is by British film maker Nic Askew and it's about life, I guess; as the blog says, it's hard to describe, and 'you just have to see the films' to get it. I've been watching for some months now, and find his approach to film interesting and to people intelligent. I can't say much very eloquently about his work, which is usually the way with good stuff. Get your weekly jumpstart at

CD Release

A shout-out for the daughter of friends and fellow CCOC alumna: Sophia Perlman has just released her first cd, Once Smitten, with her jazz band The Vipers. She has also formed a smaller group, The Sophia Perlman Trio. This 21 year old's sultry voice and professionalism have been gaining media momentum for a while now, and for good reason: she has true talent, she's intelligent, and she has musical integrity. You can hear Sophia regularly on Monday nights at the Reservoir Lounge, 52 Wellington St. E., 416-955-0887, no cover. Sophia is also responsible for leading jazz fans to various other Toronto gigs via her column in WholeNote Magazine (see link in the sidebar). Get that shaved head/jailhouse-tears taste out of your mouth, and go see what the 20-somethings are capable of.

Beatle Guise

I have been wanting to get something off my chest for a while: Paul McCartney should have stuck to pop songs. I felt this after hearing his Liverpool Oratorio (1992) and the more recent Ecce Cor Meum (2006). As my classical music guru at the soon-to-be-defunct Sam the Record Man said in a stage whisper, 'the music is a little naive'. Another blogger feels the same (Why Can't the Walrus Read?, June 8/07,, and we both shrink with embarrassment for Paul when he practically boasts that he can't read music. I love and try to support new classical works (an oxymoron, I know, but 'contemporary' and 'modern' can be confused with Christina Aiguillera), but I'm afraid Sir Paul's classical stuff just isn't credible to me, and I don't think it has lasting power. If you like 21st century classical, check out Daniel Felsenfeld of New York at Not only can he read music, he can write it down.

Also Recommended

Last week I watched the 2002 movie Frida, about Mexican surrealist artist Frida Kahlo, played by Salma Hayek. I found it visually sumptuous, and was inspired by this woman whose life was framed by physical pain. If anything, it might have been a little too sympathetic to her, but director Julie Taymor is cautious enough. Most exciting of all were the inserted fantasy/animation vignettes, illustrating things difficult to portray without being cheesy: unconsciousness, pain, art, death. The imagination of these little embellishments embodied understanding of the artist's inner life. This is a movie to bathe in when you are looking for sustenance yet narrative satisfaction.

The Children of Men

I have been intending to review Children of Men, but each week I just can't seem to articulate my feelings about it. I originally got excited about the movie, and then read the 1992 book by P.D. James, which the movie both copied and diverged from. Clive Owen, Michael Caine et. al. live in 2027 London; the social decay is such that suicide is supported by the government, refugees are in concentration camps, shortages abound, and there is total infertility worldwide. It is completely depressing (my sociological bent led me to find 35 separate social issues and problems brought up by the film), but there is a cinematic beauty to the atmosphere created in the movie, and ultimately the story is about redemption and renewal. If you like to bury your head in the sand, don't see it; if you are a thinking Christian, this film will keep you pondering for a while. I'm going to use the dvd as a teaching tool in my sociology class; I would recommend using the novel for book club or Bible study discussions. It is also full of religious symbolism, intentional or not. My only complaint is that the very ending included a trite and superfluous detail--the name of a ship--as if we couldn't get the symbolism on our own. Other than that, I found it to be a fair and intelligent adaptation of a great story.

This Week in History

June 25, 1840 Mendelssohn's Symphony #2 premiered in Leipzig.
June 26, 1909 The Victoria and Albert Museum opened in London.
June 27, 1987 A Van Gogh was auctioned in London for $20.4million.
June 30, 1857 Dickens gave his first public reading of A Christmas Carol in London.
©V.Wells, 2007.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

RSS Feed

I have a link now to RSS if you want the weekly update sent to you automatically. If it doesn't work, please send me a gentle email via, as I am no techie. If it does work, let me know that through an exuberant and congratulatory email! The RSS symbol is at the top of the right footer.

Huic Credo

©V.Wells, 2007.

This I Believe

This is a revival of an older radio program format, but brought into the new century with web access. The series This I Believe is a group of essays--rather 500 word statements of faith--by Canadians read on the radio daily and then posted on CBC. The series is opening with 40 prominent Canadians, and we the public are invited to contribute our essays for consideration. While I was a little concerned about the universality of the program because of the host, I think Preston Manning has mellowed with age, and the mandate of the show is definitely not restricted to any one Christian line; it is about "values and beliefs that guide their daily lives" (talk about Bowdlerization). Still, I read some of the 'prominent essayists' and they do fit the bill and the variation in their offerings is fascinating. I think it will be an interesting experiment. I hope to catch a few of the oral presentations soon. Check them out as they air on CBC Radio One weekdays after the 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. newscasts (except Monday evenings) which began Monday May 14 for twelve weeks. You can see more about the program at

"Keep Them Yelling Their Devotion!"

This weekend I watched, for the umpteenth time, Jesus Christ Superstar, one of my favourite anachronistic movies. After 34 years, this film still holds up brilliantly on many levels. An example of this is what I call The Gap Commercial dance scene with Larry T. Marshall (Simon Zealotes), with its slo mo and freeze frames redolent of Gap dance ads in recent years: what goes around comes around; good dance lasts. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, the sound editing is thoughtful, the simplicity of the sets and costumes not only works but also reinforces the geographical setting, and Norman Jewison has a lovely sense of when it is wiser to use more or less of a good thing. The film is rife with symbolism and references to art, which work very powerfully on the viewer. There are lots of tidbits about the film such as on, but the one I loved was the unintentional filming of a shepherd and his flock crossing the final shot--so subtle an image, but it couldn't have been better executed had it been planned. The only part that I think falls down is the goofy look of Herod's entourage; that is too 70's and doesn't carry over well, although he and the set do. Still, the book by Tim Rice makes more sense to me the more I watch it; I think he and Andrew Lloyd Webber really got the social and political undertones right. There is so much stuff in this movie that I want to do a PhD thesis on it--any benefactors out there?!? Apparently, Carl Anderson (Judas Iscariot) said "I have lived to see [it] recognized as a masterpiece". I think Carl, who died of leukemia in 2004, can rest easy.
I am hoping to have a biannual alternating Easter program of Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell movie nights at my church starting next Lent. In the spirit of the films, it will be a sing-and-dance-along showing, open to the community, with popcorn, dance area and a special outreach effort to the neighbourhood Youngsters. More about that in the new year.

Canadian Art, Eh?

Ugh. I really cannot in good conscience report happily and vacuously only about great, wonderful art (as you may have noticed), so here's my weekly groan. At the Venice Biennale, only one of the world's most prestigious modern art exhibitions, a Canadian entry representing our culture and art to the entire world is called Sweater Lodge, and you guessed it, it's a giant orange polar fleece hockey jersey with interior interactive installations. Problem is, it is so Canada-referential that the schtick (if you'll pardon the near pun) will be lost on European visitors, and, it's ugly. I mean really:If you're really interested in seeing how it looks when erected, go ahead and google it, but I just wanted to show you the scale of this embarrassment. From all accounts, visitors are not getting it (duh); we may as well have sent a wall installation of maple syrup bottles. The artists Robb and Pechet are to be commended for trying for Can Con, but this is the kind of idea that should be chucked out after the first team brainstorming. I'm not a huge fan of David Altmejd's sculptures, but his wacky stuff is at least representing Canada in the art realm in Venice; this makes me think of the Ontario Science Centre. *sigh*

Good Ol' Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst has had another news-worthy piece unveiled as part of a larger show--a skull encrusted with diamonds. Details about the skull itself, the piece's cost and value, and its meaning are already being reported with varying levels of credibility, but the point is that it is in keeping with this artist's shock value. Actually, it's not as gross as many of his previous controversial pieces. If he was really about the art and not the price tag, why did he use such fine diamonds? He could have achieved the same result with cheaper grades. Of particular interest: the point has been brought up that the piece might be a commentary on blood diamonds or rather the lack thereof. Up til now, I don't think Hirst has exactly been the social justice/activist type, but okay.........You gotta hand it to the guy, he does get news coverage!

This Week In History

This week, Canadian composer Oskar Morawetz died at 90. I sang with his daughter Claudia in the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, so condolences to her family.

June 17, 1882 Igor Stravinsky was born near St. Petersburg.
June 18, 1942 Sir Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool.
June 21, 1978 Evita by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice premiered in London.
June 22, 1858 Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy.
June 23 1846 The first patent for the saxaphone was issued (to a Mr. Sax).
June 24 1901 Pablo Picasso, aged 19, had his first exhibition, held in Paris.

To Tease or Not to Tease

I shouldn't have mentioned last week's thingy about a new gallery idea, because I spent the whole week trying to access it! They assure me they are working out their technical difficulties, so I will post the link once it is accessible.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

" "

"Without the arts, children are unlikely to write--not because they can't spell, but because they have nothing to say". ~Elliot Eisner


Next week I will tell you about a new and experimental interactive art gallery, which is sure stir up a lot of discussion about the definition of art and the function of art galleries. Bookmark Beautiful Feet to return then.

Egg Sort of on My Face- or -Backpedaling

Photo ©V. Wells, 2007.
Remember that rant last week about the ROM's Crystal? Well, I still maintain its exterior is as suitable as a leopard skin thong on the David, BUT I went to see the interior and [ahem] fell in love with it. I still had to fork out for the privilege, but I took advantage of the time this week when it would be empty, so that I could see what the space was about. I have to admit it is beautiful, and it gives several nods in some spots to the old building. I wasn't the only person taking photos, and I heard only positive responses. I wonder if its architectural power and integrity will be lost once artefacts fill the galleries? If you go, a caveat: they have a nice new expensive gift shop filled with items with which to remember your visit. So, in terms of judging a book by its cover, as Yosemite Sam would say, 'that'll learn ya!'.

Speaking of CBC...

We must not accept the increasing drivel that is called progressive programming on the CBC these days (as a CBC brat, I should be more loyal, but I just can't be...), but aside from Choral Concert and The Opera, the other fine offering for thinking minds is Tapestry, the religious affairs program on CBC Radio 1, Sundays at 2pm ( (Oh, and Quirks and Quarks gets a shout-out, too). While the hosts have changed over the years, the show's integrity and quality of content has remained excellent. They interview everyone from Harold S. Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) to John Shelby Spong, and cover all world religions, belief models and ethics. Kind of like Ideas, only about faith.
Preston Manning is hosting a new format radio program called This I Believe, which I hope to hear and report back to you on, but for now, feast your ears and mind on this cornucopia of concepts whenever possible. I have never been tempted to turn off one of their discussions.

Weekly Offering for the Youngsters (under 30s)

I'd forgotten about this little gem, and would like to introduce you to it: Geez magazine, a pretty wack publication they self describe as 'holy mischief in the age of fast faith', and 'a bustling spot for the over-churched, out-churched, un-churched and maybe even the un-churchable. For wannabe contemplatives, front-line world-changers and restless cranks.' So be forewarned, it's no trad piece by any means--its publisher and co-editor is Aiden Enns, former managing editor of Adbusters magazine. There's an interview by CBC radio's religious affairs program Tapestry that will give you an audio introduction, or you can start with their homepage: . They're 'unapolagetically Christian' (yay!), ecumenical in personal backgrounds, and Canadian.

Jazz Vespers

You may have heard about Jazz Vespers, but if you haven't experienced it, you should give it a go, even if you aren't churchy or much into jazz. This programme, wrapping up its ninth season at Christ Church Deer Park (1570 Yonge St. at Heath in Toronto), is the original jazz vespers, although some other offerings are springing up in other parts of the city. I have been going for some years now. Here's why: At 4:30 two Sundays per month, CCDP invites a professional, well known jazz artist or ensemble to play at the 'service'. Well, it is a service, but only if you want it to be--lots of people who would otherwise never set foot in a church go and do not feel proselytized or uncomfortable with liturgy. The artists introduce the time with about 10-12 minutes of jazz, when you can close your eyes and unwind. There follow times of candle lighting, a psalm reading, a brief chat by the very unchurchy clergy, general prayers for the world, all interspersed with jazz sets. At the end there is a chance to sing a familiar tune with the artists improvising; refreshments follow. You'd think a bass, drums and piano (for instance) would not harmonize visually with this traditional building, but the vibe is so good, it just all seems to meld together naturally. People are grooving to the music, many of whom are very hip seniors, but the 20s & 30s flock there for the music too. You can watch for the scheduled services either in WholeNote Magazine ( or at the church website (; I believe the last one this year is Sunday June 24th at 4:30. It's about 45 minutes and there is a truly-no-pressure collection which supports the programme. Do yourself a favour and try it out. You will walk out of there with lower blood pressure and a lighter spirit.

Hero of the Week

Howard Dyck needs no introduction to lovers of choral music. As the host of CBC radio's Choral Concert, he is the voice we hear every Sunday morning, introducing us to new and classic pieces with intelligence, wit and not an ounce of condescension despite his broad knowledge. He also occupies much of our Saturdays as the Canadian host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. For background information about Mr. Dyck and his musical occupations, go to He is responsible for a great deal of very fine programming and for participation by and the increased exposure of Canadians on the international choral scene. Now, if only the CBC would either move the show to a non-church-service time slot, or repeat its broadcast in the evening....

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Diatribe #2

When I hear "festival", I assume public accessibility for common enjoyment. So I am not impressed that Luminato, the "city wide festival of arts and creativity" includes some ticketed shows of $25-$125. They publicize it saying that half of the events are free so that art is "accessible to anyone", but what they don't mention is that most of these venues are ALWAYS free, so big deal. So, once again, I am going to attend but will not support the festival in that I will only go to the galleries etc. that I always go to for free. This runs through to the end of next weekend, June 10th, at various venues in Toronto. The website could be better organized, so have fun navigating: Disappointing management of an inaugural event; hopefully next year they will make all of the offerings free.

Diatribe #1

Grrrrrr. Even the thought of the Micheal Lee-Chin Crystal by Daniel Libeskind at the ROM makes me mad. Not that I have a problem with the architecture itself, but I really feel that plopping the Crystal on top of one of the city's most beautiful buildings is akin to sticking a leopard skin thong on the David; some things are just not right. Furthermore, the interior of the space is open for public preview until June 11th--if you pay for it. That's right, the touted free preview was only 18 hours long. If you want to see it empty before it is closed again to fill it with incongruent artifacts (or rather, the space is incongruent with them, but we all know this), you have to pay admission, which has increased to $20 for adults! So, you basically have to fund this monstrosity just for the right to critique it. {Heads up: you can go to the ROM on Fridays for $5 from 4:30 to 9:30pm} Getting access to the preview is a bit convoluted, so please visit to figure it out. I found conflicting info about this on other sites, so I would recommend calling to confirm what you believe is correct. I plan to go so that I can substantiate my rants about the melded architecture. While there, you might want to take in the exhibit of the Black Star Sapphire of Queensland, one of the largest in the world, included in your architorture* admission. I'm not including a photo on the principle that it would satisfy the Crystal's supporters; kind of like if you ignore people with those booming disco cars, you aren't giving them the attention they want.
*unfortunately, I cannot claim authorship of this term.

Hero of the Week

The Canadian Opera Company ( is finally finding its financial feet after lo these many years, and kudos to Richard Bradshaw for his part in it. The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, despite its unimaginative/corporate name, is a fantastic venue; even seats in the highest ring are excellent, and comparatively affordable--see my comments about ticket prices in the above two posts. But Bradshaw's vision and unwavering dedication to boosting opera's appeal and to constantly upping the ante in Canadian opera production is a huge factor in our continuing and growing success in the world of opera. [In case you can't tell, I am the president of the Richard Bradshaw Fan Club.]. He is also an engaging speaker, so if you have the opportunity to hear a talk or lecture by him, do attend.

The Cathedral that Never Was Here is a link to the online version of an exhibit in England (now over--sorry to you globetrotters, but I didn't get my Brit source til it was too late) of an astounding model whose preservation work is now complete. The Catholic cathedral in Liverpool was to be so intricate and extravagant that even the wooden model was never completed, never mind the building's actual construction. Use the link to see some interesting photos about the architecture of this building:

Live Longer Without This

I wanted to like this online gallery, I really did, since it is the same medium as mine, but I really should warn you off Leonard Nimoy's Full Body Project, a collection of his black and white photos. It's not the fact that the content is groups of obese women, it's the fact that the composition su--well, it's not up to much. I checked the rest of the site and it's not much better. Expensive equipment does not good art make. Curious?

Being Unaware of Movies

I don't know how I managed to miss this film when it was released, but I recently rented Being John Malkovich. I won't ruin the story for you, but I really loved this wacky and dark film. The premise involves access to others' identity, in this case to John-Malkovich-the-actor's. If you are feeling open to something quirky and thought provoking, I highly recommend this dvd. And, youngsters: my daughter, who is 16, LOVED it--it was 'trippy', so you don't have to take my boring ol' parental word for it. Rated R for sexual content, but there's worse stuff on MTV.

Our Lady of Good Counsel Interior

This and some other funky Christian art can be found on